Perhaps because my trajectory in life involved growing up in a rural area and later moving to a city, one of my favorite genres of books involves the opposite. I love reading about individuals and couples who move to the countryside and take control of a large property. There are a shocking amount of these, many long out of print, and I get endless enjoyment reading about these people getting accustomed to a wild amount of upkeep in old homes. Every individual has their own reasons for taking on these tasks—often that they’re not even qualified in the traditionally sense for—but they usually have one major factor in common: while it seemed like a good idea before signing the housing contract, it’s quite a different story when you actually catch the first glimpse of the house itself. Nothing in this subset of books exemplifies this dread better than the opening to Cobwebs and Cream Teas.
Remembering our first encounter with Felbrigg Hall, I’m irresistibly reminded of all the horror movies I’ve ever seen.
It was October. All morning, as my husband and I drove from Lincolnshire into Norfolk, rain clouds had been gathering. Now the storm was about to break. The sky darkened into swirling, livid steel as we map-read our way along a final three miles of country lanes and came at last to wrought-iron gates where a sign read ‘Felbrigg Hall’.
Beyond twin grey lodges, the drive wound away into gloom, through a tunnel of oak trees whose trunks were lost in an impenetrable tangle of rhododendron bushes. Our headlights cut a pale swathe through the weird storm-light. The wind hurled fistfuls of leaves to scatter across the windscreen. The drive seemed to run on for ever, round a bend, over a hill. At last we glimpsed a building—a church, pale and grey beneath the scudding sky, standing forsaken behind a freshly ploughed field.
And then suddenly, ahead of us, through shadows cast by the approaching storm, the ancient house appeared, gaunt and forbidding in a grandeur of castellated turrets and Jacobean bays. In that moment the first rain swept down, throwing curtains of obscurity across the view. Was it an omen? Dare we approach the forbidding mansion? What fate awaited us there…?
Title: Cobwebs and Cream Teas
Series: Felbrigg Hall #1
Author: Mary Mackie
Publication Date: 1990
Classification: Memoir, Nonfiction
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